In an interview last year, former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I, said the Catholic Church’s law on celibacy among priests “can change.” The former Jesuit cardinal also admitted that he had been tempted by a woman as a seminarian.
In the interview, published in the Spanish-language book “On the Heavens and the Earth” and translated by the Catholic news website Aleteia, Bergoglio commented on how many men in Eastern churches were married and were “very good priests.”
However, he said for now, "The discipline of celibacy stands firm,” and said those who cannot abide by the law should quit the priesthood.
Father Thomas Reese, a Vatican analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, said, “The last few popes have been pretty clear they were not open to changing it or having a discussion about it.”
Reese said that although the new Pope was not advocating change, “It looks like he may be willing to talk about it.”
Bergoglio told his interviewer that he had been “dazzled by a girl I met at an uncle's wedding,” while he was in training to be a priest.
He said, "I was surprised by her beauty, her intellectual brilliance ... and, well, I was bowled over for quite a while.
"I kept thinking and thinking about her. When I returned to the seminary after the wedding, I could not pray for over a week because when I tried to do so, the girl appeared in my head. I had to rethink what I was doing."
He admits he was able to chose his path as a priest over the girl but realizes that not all priests can do this.
Bergoglio added, “When something like this happens to a seminarian, I help him go in peace to be a good Christian and not a bad priest.
"In the Western Church to which I belong, priests cannot be married as in the Byzantine, Ukrainian, Russian or Greek Catholic Churches. In those Churches, the priests can be married, but the bishops have to be celibate. They are very good priests.
"In Western Catholicism, some organizations are pushing for more discussion about the issue. For now, the discipline of celibacy stands firm. Some say, with a certain pragmatism, that we are losing manpower. If, hypothetically, Western Catholicism were to review the issue of celibacy, I think it would do so for cultural reasons (as in the East), not so much as a universal option."
He continued, “If a priest tells me he got excited and that he had a fall, I help him to get on track again. There are priests who get on track again and others who do not...The double life is no good for us. I don't like it because it means building on falsehood. Sometimes I say: 'If you can not overcome it, make your decision'."